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17.01.2011 Juba, Sudan – Referendum and election

The Sudanese people have lived with war, survived intense violence and lived in small refugee camps with lack of basic needs. With the ongoing elections, many Sudanese people have hopes for their country and situation. Officials in Southern Sudan said that according to the 60% of registered voters nationwide was enough for the needed referendum to be valid but it could reach 91%. The 3.1 million of Southern Sudan’s 3.7 million registered voters had been weighed at Friday evening. According to some voters, they have been waiting for a long time to separate as the government has been dominated by Arab Muslims in the north fighting the Christians in the South in a civil war that killed 2 million and left many in hunger and unbelievable poverty. Thousands moved to Southern Sudan hoping for a better life and better future.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Blasphemy law will not be amended says PM

The PM announced on Monday that the government has no intend of changing the country’s controversial blasphemy law. PM Yousaf Raza Gilani announced this news as the pressure is increasing from the various religious groups almost 2 weeks after the assassination of the liberal governor who was campaigning to change the law. There have been several demonstrations in the streets protesting against tampering and changing the law as well as not to release the Christian woman Asia Bibi.

Jerusalem, Israel – Ehud Barak leaving the Labour faction


Barak made the announcement on Monday that he and 4 other members, Matan Vilnai, Einat Wilf, Orit Noked and Shalom Simchon are leaving their party to form a new faction called Atzmaut (Independence), describing it as an “centrist, Zionistic and democratic party.” Barak has been criticised for staying too much in the right-wing coalition government of PM Netanyahu and that the dispute inside the party was drifting left.

“The government became a lot stronger today. It became stronger in governance and its stability and this is very important for the state of Israel. The whole world knows that this government will be here for the next coming years, including the Palestinians,” the PM said to reporters on Monday. “And this government is the one they need to negotiate a peace deal with on the basis of security and peace. We will operate as a responsible government that takes care of the state of Israel.” The Labour party, headed by Barak, held a total of 13 Knesset seats. With the announcement of a new faction, Barak and his colleagues are expected to stay in Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Netanyahu will be left with a coalition of 66 members, down from the current 74. One of the major criticisms against Barak was his refusal to quit the coalition after peace-making efforts with the Palestinian’s broke down in September but even though he decided to leave, the Labour Party accused its members of disloyalty. Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition and Kadima Party, said in a conference on Monday, “I believe this is a day of hope for Israel because the breakup of the Labour party will be followed by the breakup of the government and we will have elections.” Eitan Cabel, a Labour Knesset member, spoke about Barak’s decision to leave in an Israeli radio interview Monday.”Those leaving have decided to destroy the Labour party,” he said. “They need to come and ask our forgiveness for everything they have done and said against the party. The Labour party has finished the way as an alternative. The curtain has come down on the glorious Labour movement.”

18.01.2011 New Delhi, India – Concerns about corruption

India, having the world’s second-fastest growing major economy has concerned many of the top business leaders in the country, as they are urging the Nations political establishment to tackle the ongoing corruption as well as other scandals. “We are alarmed at the widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions,” the 14-member group wrote in what it called an “open letter” to national leaders on Monday.

The members included executives from companies like Godrej Group, Wipro, the Housing Development Finance Corporation and Mahindra and Mahindra. In its second term, PM Manmohan Singh’s coalition government is facing massive criticism for their handling of the country’s endemic corruption. According to the government audit, the treasury lost up to $31 billion from under-valuation of airwaves and the scam, seen as the biggest to hit India in these times, has forced the country’s telecom minister A. Raja to resign. Raja, member of a key regional ally of Singh’s Congress party, denies the charges.

Baghdad, Iraq – Suicide bomber strikes again

A suicide bomber wearing a vest with explosives attacked a police recruitment centre in Northern Iraq on Tuesday killing 65 and wounding 160. The attacker was standing at a checkpoint where people wait for their turn to enter in and the explosion was so heavy that it caused a fire at a gas station nearby. Most of the killed and wounded were young men who had come to join the police force.  The government issued a three-day mourning period in Salaheddin province. Iraqi recruitment centres have been targeted frequently over the past few years and 48 was killed on August 17, when a suicide bomber attacked a military recruitment centre in Central Baghdad. U.S. troops have ended their mission but stays to advice and train. On Saturday, 3 U.S. soldiers were killed in the Northern Iraq and another one in the central Iraq. There are fewer than 50,000 American service members and they are expected to leave the country by the end of this year.

West Bank, Palestine – Russian President visits the Palestinian territories


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the Palestinian territories on his “historic trip” on his Middle East tour. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed him on Tuesday in Jericho, West Bank, where the two are expected to hold a press conference. Both Presidents will sign three agreements in agriculture, sports and communications and Medvedev will later inaugurate a new Russian art museum in Jericho. Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat sees this trip as a “historic state visit” that gives a message to the world that Palestinians are ready for statehood and independence as Russia was one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian state and the Palestinians have full diplomatic representation in Moscow. Medvedev cancelled an official visit to Israel this same month because of the strike by the Foreign Ministry employees who refused to organize the visit as they demand higher wages. Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor said that the strike is harming Israeli interests as he blamed the finance ministry for ignoring the workers demands. President Shimon Peres phoned the Russian President apologizing for the cancellation visit, but thanked him for his involvement in the Middle East peace process. They agreed to meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Nigeria – Iran accused of providing Nigeria with weapons

UN weapons experts have arrived in Nigeria to investigate an Iranian arms shipment that was seized in the port of Lagos last October. The container was labelled as building materials but instead consisted of various weapons, rocket launchers and grenades destined for the capital Abuja after its arrival in Lagos. Nigerian officials charged an alleged member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and three Nigerian citizens over the illegally imported weapons since Iran is under UN sanctions because of its nuclear programme and is banned from supplying, selling or transferring arms. The shipment was intercepted when an attempt was made to re-export to Gambia, as Gambia’s neighbour Senegal contacted its ambassador to Teheran over the incident fearing that the weapons was destined to separatist rebels. Teheran on their side said that the cargo was shipped by a private company to a “West African country” and this was an incident of a misunderstanding that now was cleared up.

Johannesburg – 40 people killed in South African floods

At least 40 people have been killed and 6,000 displaced by the flooding since December. Officials estimated that the damages to infrastructure and agriculture will cost the country millions of dollars and the forecasts have predicted more rain to come. Many of the country’s poorest residents are the worst affected by the floods and on Monday, authorities had to evacuate more than 30 people, and the government declared 28 municipalities in 7 provinces as disaster areas.

Islamabad, Pakistan – 7.2 magnitude earthquake hits southwest Pakistan

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 struck on Wednesday morning in Southwest Pakistan, but reports have reported that there was no major damage. Director of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Arif Mahmood, said that the earthquake had been felt in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces in Pakistan as well as in Iran, India and moderate shaking for 30 seconds in Dubai. As for the area, it is not uncommon for the region to have earthquakes since it is the place where two tectonic plates come together.

Cairo, Egypt – Self- immolations across the Arab world

One man, Ahmad Hashem Sayed died and another one was injured after setting themselves on fire in Egypt on Tuesday. Sayed was unemployed and the other person burned himself in front of the parliament building because his ex-wife refused to allow him from seeing his daughters. Self-immolations were sparked by Mohammad Bouazizi, a 26 year old unemployed college graduate who set himself on fire after the police had confiscated his only income, a fruit chart. He died on January 4. Now there has been reported of self-immolations in Mauritania and Algeria as riots and demonstrations have erupted.

19.01.2011 Hillary Clinton says Iran may face further US sanctions

Hillary Clinton made this comment after admitting that some Chinese “entities” were failing to comply fully with sanctions and that US is now pushing China as the Chinese President is on a diplomatic trip to the US. Six world powers; US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are to hold discussions and negotiations with Iran in the Turkish city Istanbul.

Afghanistan – WFP’s new Afghan Strategy

United Nations World Food Programme and the Afghan government are working on a common strategy to provide food aid to millions of Afghans over the next three years, mainly in the rural areas.

Kabul, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai postponed the opening of the parliament
Karzai postponed the opening of the country’s parliament by a month after allegations to probe of fraud in September’s parliamentary elections requested a postponement. The 5 judge tribunal established in December had to review complaints from hundreds of losing candidates announced that they needed more time to investigate and it will be opened on 22 February. Last September’s parliamentary poll and the Presidential election of 2009 were overshadowed by fraud allegations that damaged the credibility of President Karzai and his government.

Beirut, Lebanon – Saudi Arabia abandons mediation talks with Lebanon

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs, said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has abandoned mediation talks to resolve Lebanon’s political crisis that caused the government’s collapse last week describing the political situation in Lebanon as “dangerous”. Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday to pick up where the Syrian and Saudis left off and met President Michel Suleiman and caretaker PM Saad Hariri.

Kabul, Afghanistan – Journalist victim of acid attack

Police in Afghanistan has started an investigation in search for a man who attacked Afghan journalist Razaq Mamoon by spraying acid on his face as Mamoon was on his way home on Tuesday. His eyes were saved from major injuries by the glasses he was wearing at the time. Speaking from his hospital bed, Mamoon said that Iran is behind the attack because of his latest book; “The Footprint of Pharaoh”, where he documents Iranian sabotage and intelligence activities trying to divide Afghanistan. The publishers were also threatened by the officials of the Iranian embassy in Kabul, he told. “They tried to ban the book but when they couldn’t I had a feeling they would do something. I don’t think this will be the first and last”, he said. The Iranian embassy in Kabul has not commented on Mamoon’s allegations.

 

 

Paktika, Afghanistan – Roadside bomb in Paktika kills 13 civilians

The interior minister stated that 13 people, mostly women and children were killed when a motorised rickshaw was hit in the morning. It is not known who carried out the attack but the area on the Pakistan’s border is known for its stronghold of Taliban. Paktika governor Mohibullah Samim said that families were taking their children to the local health clinic. The clinic has been targeted because the nearby road is close to the governor’s office is used by Afghan and international troops. On Saturday, 6 people were killed in a roadside bomb in Helmand and 9 people attending a wedding were killed by a roadside bomb in Baghlan on Sunday.

20.01.2011 – Suicide bomber kills 32 Shiite pilgrims in Karbala

Around 50 people were killed and 150 others injured in two heavy explosions that was targeting the Shiite pilgrims on Thursday in Karbala, 60 miles (100km) south of Baghdad. It was the latest attack across Iraq this week that have totally killed 118 people and wounded 450. Tens and thousands of Shiite pilgrims were on their way to the city Arbaeen, a religious observation that follows for 40 days of mourning of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, felled in a 7th century battle.

Tunisia – Members of Ben Ali family arrested


33 members of the Ben Ali family have been arrested over the past few days as they tried to leave the country. Interim leader Fouad Mebazaa wowed to a “total break” with the past. The State television showed the gold and jewellery that was found during raids on the family member’s properties and Tunisian government estimates that $620 million have been put into Swiss banks. In Paris, the anti-government group Transparency International France and two other associates had filed a legal case against Ben Ali and his wife. In Geneva, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced to freeze funds of Ben Ali. Calmy-Rey also said Bern acted to prevent assets being withdrawn and to ensure that a new Tunisian administration would be able to retrieve assets taken illicitly. Even though the situation still is tense, curfew hours are reduced, traffic increasing and shops are open.

Bristol, UK – Man faces extradition hearing accused for hiring hit man


Shrien Dewani from Bristol is facing extradition hearing as his wife was murdered on their honeymoon in South Africa. Dewani is accused for hiring a hit man to kill his wife Anni in Cape Town. Mrs. Dewani, 28 was shot when the taxi she and her husband were travelling in was hijacked on November 13. Mr. Dewani, 31, denies any involvement in the killing of his wife.

 

21.01.2011 – Bin Laden threatens France

The person speaking on the audiotape, claiming to be Osama Bin Laden, warned that the release of the two French journalists that was abducted hinges on Frances’s military role in Afghanistan. “The release of your prisoners from the hands of our brethren depends on the withdrawal of your soldiers from our countries,” he said. Then he warned the French government that its alliance with USA will cost them. “The dismissal of your President Sarkozy to get out of Afghanistan is the result of his subservience to the United States and this (dismissal) is considered to be the green signal to kill your prisoners without delay,” the speaker said. France on their side said that the message would not make them deter from their Afghan strategy. “We are determined to stay in Afghanistan with our allies for the Afghan people,” said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. Taliban militants captured the journalists Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier were captured on December 20009 and threatened to kill if their demands were not met. France has 3,750 troops in Afghanistan, according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

Gaza, Palestinian territory – Mob attacked FM car

The car of French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was attacked Friday in Gaza by a mob of around 20 people consisting of the family members of Palestinians in Israeli jails as the foreign minister was visiting and was leaving to visit the French Cultural Center. They also threw eggs and shoes at the vehicle. The foreign minister was being protected by her own security as Hamas was not present. The families were frustrated and angered by a demand made by the foreign minister that Hamas leadership led Red Cross representatives visit kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who holds Israeli and French citizenship. Palestinian militants crossed into Israel from Gaza on June 25, 2006, and kidnapped Shalit, who was 19 at the time. Israel and Hamas have been negotiating his release through third-party mediators from Egypt and Germany, but talks have started and stalled numerous times.

22.01.2011 Iran – Women band from watching live soccer

Iranian authorities have ordered a ban on women from watching live broadcasts of football matches at public movie theatres claiming that “the presence of women and families at movie theatres increases security risks and inappropriate behaviour.” Movie theatres in Iran’s major cities have broadcast matches from this year’s Asian Cup, where Iran’s national football team has advanced to the quarterfinals after winning its first three matches. Women are already banned from attending men’s football matches at stadiums. Hard-line government officials and clerics say the presence of women at men’s sporting events is not compatible with Islam.

Algiers, Algeria – Protesters defied ban

Algerian security forces clashed with protesters on Saturday who defied a ban and protested on the streets demanding a political reform. 11 protesters and 8 policemen were injured and 9 protesters were arrested. The government called the demonstration for small and unauthorized as it was consisting of 250 people. A law adopted in 2001 indefinitely bans all demonstrations in Algiers, according to the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. A nationwide state of emergency in effect for nearly two decades allows the government to ban any event that is “likely to disturb public order and tranquillity.” The protests broke out because of the food costs and were sparked by the demonstrations in Tunisia where the government collapsed.

Pakistan – 3 killed in roadside bomb

2 police officers and a pedestrian were killed and 7 others injured in northwest Pakistan on Saturday. The bomb was along a road in a village in Orokzai, one of the seven districts in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border. Orokzai became a battleground as the fight continues against Taliban when Pakistan launched an offensive there targeting militants.

23.01.2011 – 32 people killed in bus crash in Sindh province in Pakistan

32 people lost their lives as a bus lost control after speeding and drove into an oil tanker bursting into flames. Most of the victims were passengers trapped inside the bus.

Islamabad, Pakistan – 6 people die in protests against missiles

Pakistani villagers were protesting on Sunday against missile strikes from US drones when 6 suspected militants were killed in two separate attacks. Around 900 people had met up at the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan organized by a group of local villagers chanting “Anyone who is a friend of the U.S. is a traitor,” among other slogans against Washington and the Central Intelligence Agency. Most of the local businesses were shut down due to the protest, which had support from students, businessmen and shopkeepers.

“If drone strikes are not stopped, we will take gun instead of pen against the US,” one student protester said. In the first strike, suspected drones fired two missiles on the militants’ vehicle in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts in Pakistan’s volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The militants in the second attack were riding on a motorcycle near Datta Khel when they were hit by a missile from the unmanned drone, officials said. The Obama administration has stepped up drone strikes targeting Pakistan’s tribal region with more than 100 attacks last year, mostly targeting North Waziristan.

The United States is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones, which are controlled remotely.

Baghdad, Iraq – 6 people die in car explosion

6 people were killed and 30 injured when car bombs exploded in different neighbourhoods. The bombs occurred over a three-hour period Sunday morning, and appeared to be part of a coordinated attack that showed the hallmarks of al Qaeda in Iraq. One police officer was among the dead and four police officers were among the wounded, police officials said. The attacks come as key security ministry positions remain vacant in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government amid political wrangling. Al-Maliki serves as acting defence, interior and national security minister.

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